In a swift and silent move, Apple removed TV show rentals from iTunes Friday. This comes nearly a year after the release of the so-called “hockey puck” second generation Apple TV, and on the heels of Steve Jobs’ resignation.
The ostensible failure of TV show rentals does not come as a surprise. Services like Netflix and Hulu Plus have significant price advantages that leave Apple in the dust – or so you’d think. However, Apple spokesman Tom Neumayr told AllThingsD quite a different story, remarking, ““iTunes customers have shown they overwhelmingly prefer buying TV shows.” Consequently, Apple brought TV show purchases in early August.
It represents a complete U-Turn by new CEO Tim Cook, who, one short year ago, worked vehemently along with former CEO Steve Jobs to get studios to halve rental prices and spur the industry. Clearly, the prices have not worked in their favor or the volume has not been sufficient to sustain business. It also is truly a testament to the power of bulk at a time when Netlflix is beefing up its online streaming business and Apple is shrinking it.
This brings up an interesting question regarding the future of Apple’s role in portable media. iOS devices are absolutely ubiquitous. Netflix has, without a shred of a doubt, proven that there is a significant market for rentals. Apple could feasibly compete in this sector, especially considering their ties to the big four media companies.
With all that said, this could also be an indicator of an upcoming product unveiling, which we were expecting vis-a-vis the iPhone anyway. It is clear that the company is reformulating its strategy in home theater, and that could be paving the way for a third-generation Apple TV. Last year’s unveiling was on the first of September, a date we are nearing quickly. Surely the timing is not purely coincidental.
As far as the greater industry goes, this will not change much. If you’re willing to pony up the cash monthly, you’ll still be getting much more from Hulu Plus or Netflix than Apple has ever given, and conduct it all on your iOS device regardless. It is the future implications of this announcement that are most intriguing.